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UWRF women’s hockey prepares to play Norwich University in NCAA semifinal

March 20, 2014

The UW-River Falls Falcon women’s hockey team has arrived in Plattsburgh, N.Y. for the Frozen Four this weekend and is set to take on Norwich University (Vt.) tomorrow afternoon in the semifinals with the drop of the puck at 7 p.m. (EST).

“Since freshman year we have been working to get here. It is an awesome feeling. Our team is so close and it’s fun to be here with this group of girls,” senior Katie Batters said. “Everyone worked hard and busted every second of our time on the ice on our way here.”

The four Falcon seniors in Batters, Kait Mason, Brook Story and Ashley Kuechle have made the NCAA tournament every year of their UWRF career. This is the group’s first trip to the semifinals and the first trip for the team since 2009 when they finished fourth place.

After falling the previous three years to Gustavus Adolphus College, UWRF beat Lake Forest College 4-1 this year to advance. Kait Mason said the team had a different mentality going into the quarterfinal game this year than in years past and Head Coach Joe Cranston said the team had no doubts they would win the game if they played their game.

“Getting past that game and being here is a relief,” Cranston said.

UWRF holds a 22-4-3 overall record and have won nine straight games. They also have allowed just four goals in five games. They are led by three seniors that are in the top four all-time UWRF scoring history with Mason, Batters and Brook Story. They have five players with 20 or more points overall on the season and 11 players with 10 or more points on the season. Kuechle has played strong in net this season as well. She has only allowed a 1.16 goals against average and broke the UWRF single season shutout record with seven shutouts this season.

Norwich has won 17 straight games, hold a 26-3 overall record and the nation’s leading goal scorer in Tori Charron with 30 goals on the season. She leads the team with 45 points and is a finalist for the 2014 Laura Hurd Award (D3 Player of the Year) for the second straight year. The second leading scorer on the team is Brittany Sharman with 18 points and a team high 17 assists. Taylor Fairchild has started the last five games in net and is 14-2 on the season with a 1.28 goals against average.

UWRF is just 1-13 against East Region teams and in the 15 year history of their program they have never played Norwich.

Norwich has only played one West Region team in the history of their program.

UWRF also has never played Plattsburgh State who is hosting the tournament and taking on the University of St. Thomas in the semifinals. Plattsburgh is 26-1-1 on the season and St. Thomas is 20-5-3 on the season. The Falcons beat St. Thomas 9-3 earlier this year and lost to them 2-1 towards the end of the season.

The Falcons do not plan to adjust their playing style this late in the year just because they are playing new teams. “Every team here is good. It doesn’t matter who we play, we are going to play the same way,” Batters said.

If the Falcons win tomorrow they will move on to the championship game which will be played at 7 p.m. (EST) Saturday and if they lose they will play at 3:30 p.m. (EST) Saturday.

As the team gets ready for the two big games they are trying to keep their preparation as normal as possible and do what they have been doing all year long. “We just need to play our game and outwork our opponents.” Cranston said.